South Island ‘completely let down’

The South has barely reverted to Covid-19 Alert Level 3, but Act New Zealand leader David Seymour is already questioning why the island is not at Level 2 or lower.

All detected cases linked to the Auckland Delta cluster have been found in that city, or in Wellington.

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed this afternoon there are 49 new community cases of the Delta variant - all in Auckland.

ACT leader David Seymour. Photo: RNZ
ACT leader David Seymour. Photo: RNZ
Another 75 cases were announced by the Ministry of Health yesterday, all but one of them in Auckland. Bloomfield said the remaining case, in Wellington, was likely a historic infection but further tests were being done.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today ruled out a shift down to Level 2 for the South Island, saying that was not part of the plan.

Mr Seymour said yesterday the South Island should not have to wait until after next Monday’s Cabinet meeting to discover if the alert level would be dropped again.

‘‘The South Island has been completely let down by slow contact tracing efforts, leaving it locked down for far longer than it needed to be at Level 3.’’

In response to questions in Parliament yesterday asked by Mr Seymour, Ardern said 518 close contacts of the Auckland cluster had been identified in the South Island, and that some were still to have had day 12 tests.

Fewer than five of those contacts were in Otago or Southland, the Southern District Health Board said yesterday.

Ms Ardern said Mr Seymour misunderstood how the contact tracing system worked and she was confident all individuals at a location of interest had been identified.

‘‘But I would rather be cautious ... If we find a case in the South Island, we have the potential and the ability to contain it at this level; it would be much harder if we were free of restrictions.’’

Mr Seymour said more than one million lives in the South Island had been on hold while the Government awaited the results of a handful of tests.

‘‘Jacinda Ardern casually referred to Level 3 as the ‘wait and see level’, but wait and see means businesses are losing revenue, kids are not being educated and medical procedures are delayed.’’

Infectious disease specialists were confident the South Island could move to Level 2 next week, provided there were some minor, but important, changes to the alert level rules.

University of Otago epidemiologist Prof Michael Baker said there first needed to be evidence the virus was not being transmitted outside Auckland, including adequate precautions to ensure essential workers were not taking the virus to other parts of the country.

Also, the Level 2 rules needed to be upgraded to protect against the Delta variant which was easily transmitted through the air.

“As it is constructed at the moment, Alert Level 2 doesn’t provide very much protection against the virus circulating widely.
“It gets people back to work and back to school, which is what we want, but the only barrier is [physical distancing]. An airborne virus doesn’t respect that rule,’’ Prof Baker said.

He recommended adding another level between 2 and 3, which would require people to continue wearing face masks indoors at school and at work, which would reduce the size of another outbreak before it was detected.

“There’s no reason why the South Island or possibly the North Island outside of Auckland, could not move down quite quickly to an alert level below 3, with people back at work and school, but we just have to re-engineer the rules so there’s a barrier to prevent widespread circulation of respiratory viruses.”

University of Canterbury mathematics lecturer and infectious disease modeller Prof Michael Plank had become quite confident about a move down, because an outbreak had not been found “simmering away” in the community outside of Auckland.

“It’s likely that by now, we would have seen people testing positive or we would have had a positive wastewater result.

Cases could still leak out of Auckland, but the signs that outbreak was coming under control were encouraging.

Yesterday, about 180 Covid-19 tests were carried out by the SDHB, and total vaccinations passed 275,000.

 

Comments

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Man! Seymour is desperate for the South Island vote, try and maintain his advantage over national. But… he still needs to wear a black robe and carry a scythe when making these announcements of doom.

He's got my labor vote

I’d lay my $ on you never having voted Labour in your life.

Man! ird is still enamored with reading and believing mainstream media, anybody but Seymour (and national) eh.....

It’s lrd, nationalman

Seymour, you have NO idea how to run a business or a country. You don't do it on popularity. What NZ needs is unity not comments that are divisive. Like Collins, you are just trying to garner votes at the expense of our health and long term well being. Yes you will get some votes from conspiracy theorists and businessmen who want to make money at he expense of many of us dying.

If Christchurch were Auckland and Nelson had a handful of cases would you expect the entire North Island to be in lockdown? What he says makes crystal sense.

No it doesn’t.
The science makes crystal sense, not Seymour's populist politicking which all about telling uneducated people what they want to hear.

Yes i would given that the govt has far more info than you or Seymour does. Its so easy to be a talkback caller when you're no in the know. So if your Nelson & Chch were in regular flights to the North island, yes.
At least Baron you're not giving your vote to Judith.

Well he couldn't do much worse than the present lot. They got in on popularity, certainly not competence. The vaccine roll out is a mess. MIQ a mess, immigration a mess and meanwhile they are pushing societal changes no-one asked for. We don't need conspiracy theories when labour are in office, they provide their own.

You have such a low opinion of your fellow nzers. They voted labour last election because they finally seen national in their true colours and just how bad they were. That was the main reason. The second reason was Shane Jones as heir apparent to Winston. That was nzfirsts biggest strategic error since Winston set it up.!the third reason was that labour had given the country a strong international profile, given kiwis something to be proud of and they rewarded her for that.
The vaccine roll out is not a mess. MIQ is not a mess and immigration had been in need of a complete rebuild for 20 years, it’s not a new problem.
If Seymour was n charge we’d be in a similar state to the USA. He would have done much worse.

Jacinda has no idea how to run a business either... Whether she knows how to run a country is up for debate.

The ironic thing in your comment is that these lockdowns will ruin the low to middle class while the upper class get rich off them, Amazon and other mega corporations are making record profits while small businesses die

The jury is also out whether lockdowns prevent death in the long run or merely delay it

Yet another reason to be grateful this 'gentlemen' is nowhere near the levers of power.

One case at level 2 could turn into 700 down here very quickly. The wastewater is reassuring but the fact people don’t get a test when they’re I’ll just shows the covid denial that goes on. Time at higher levels and then mask and good hygiene is the only way to guarantee the SI is safe.

So it would be impossible to quarantine the few S Island contacts until they test negative?

Well said David

Prof Michael Baker : epidemiologist

David Seymour : act leader/twerker

Pretty sure who we should take heed of ....

Actually he's right. There's no reason whatsoever for the South to be at anything above Level 2. No cases, no wastewater evidence. Nothing. Can't keep paying for the government's inadequate vaccination programme with an enforced stasis.

Apart from the no cases All of the above is opinion, not fact.
Fortunately the govt is acting on the advice of scientists and not politicians who have agenda based solely on popularity and re-election.

The reason is political.Don't want to lose Auckland votes by allowing the South to move to Two while they remain at Four.In fact the South should be at One.

There is no reason we couldn't have gone to lvl 1 yesterday. Unfortunately Mr Seymour no longer has any credibility relating to matters of individual liberty and fighting an increasingly authoritarian govt when he supports mandatory vaccines

That this newspaper headlines this further attempt to undermine our COVID response. The constant carping and politicking is breathtakingly perverse. Then to top it the ultimate response from Michael Laws. Left to these so called libertarians we had COVID rife. But heh obviously some people would be happy…until it happens.

Ah, the labor party have politicized the whole Covid event, its their only policy,

Requiring a high level of vaccinations (90% or so) and calling out the fact that the govt doesn't seem to have a plan is hardly perverse. Calling the govt to account is what all of us should be doing. As it is there is plenty to criticise, their incompetence has been staggering. Why no spit testing? Why such a slow roll out of vaccines? Why so many stuff ups in MIQ? Unless we want to remain in lock down for every we will have to get used to living with covid, like it or not.

Thankfully we have PM Jacinda Ardern/Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Advisors leading our Team of...mostly 5 Million. The few (1%ers?) who dont like it could always head offshore to the "free world" for their "freedum" : )

The dearly departed Soviet Union used to send "the few who don't like it" to the "free world". But most of them to Siberia...

Is it any wonder the ORC cannot commit to water quality when they have the likes of ex ACT Laws & Calvert.

I'm with David, let's half-ass the Covid response like the Aussies. What could go wrong.

15 known close contacts in the South Island have failed to have their day 12 tests and they haven’t made contact with them yet- which is weird in itself as those people should be at home isolating abs NEVER leaving the house for anything until their 12 day tests come back negative. So if we can’t trust people who have already identified themselves as close contacts to do the right thing then opening up to level 2 prematurely seems like a recipe for disaster. The downside is some of the South Island is acting like we’re already in level 2. Families going off to the bach or a group of 12 teenagers jumping in the river yesterday are two examples I’ve seen of people clearly thinking COVID is not their problem which potentially makes it all of our problem.

I supported the nationwide lockdown two weeks ago, but I think it is ridiculous to put the whole South Island under lockdown for much longer. Not always a fan of Seymour, but not a *blind* supporter of anyone else either.

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